The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination is administered by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. Most candidates take four core subjects - Chinese and English languages, mathematics and liberal studies - and two or three elective subjects. Results are divided into five levels, with 5 being the highest. A Level 5 with the best performance will be awarded a 5**.
Ethnic students keen on Taiwan option
While it is common for Hongkongers to pursue their studies in another Chinese-speaking location, it is still a relatively new option for ethnic minority students.
Three such pupils from the Delia Memorial School (Hip Wo) - Dixon Alwi Wijaya, Bajwa Mahabir Singh and Amreena Shaheen Abdul - are off to Taipei in September, thanks to a pilot scheme offered by their school. They will study international business and trade at Ming Chuen University.
The trio are the second batch of students the school has helped send to the island since the programme, which aims to help ethnic minority students pursue their undergraduate studies in Taiwan, began last year.
Amreena Shaheen, 18, scored a 5** in English and a 5 in English literature in the DSE exams.
That means she has a good chance of getting a government-funded place in one of the city's eight universities. But she has chosen Taiwan. "It will be cheaper, with the [HK$10,000 a year] scholarship. And I want to open myself up to a new environment," she said.
Her school has specialised in ethnic minority education for more than 45 years. For the pilot scheme, it joined forces with two Taiwanese colleges: I-Shou University in Kaohsiung and Ming Chuen University in Taipei.
The two universities offer bachelor degrees in business administration, mass communications and hospitality to students who are not Chinese - without them having to sit written exams.
Chan Hoi-shan, the teacher in charge of the programme, said Taiwan was often overlooked as many ethnic minority students did not realise there were international universities on the Putonghua-speaking island.